You have taken up a new job and your manager is really a ‘Mr. Nice Guy’. He is too kind to you, as well as to other team members. He has never been hard if you did not meet your deadline or performed at a high-quality level. You are free to take as many numbers of breaks in between your work and he never has a problem. He avoids getting into conflicts and is extra polite. You may have thanked God enough by now as such bosses are a gift in this tyrant corporate world.
I’ve seen plenty of managers and superiors who have a tendency to be ‘liked’ by everyone around. They feel that it may spoil team spirit if they’re not nice. They might talk about demanding exceptional performance, but too often, the underlying craving for being liked by all surpasses other very critical concerns. The irony doesn’t end here; they want people to always speak well of them. Paradoxically, it is not always a bonus to get a nice and pleasant boss as it may slow down your career progression and often end up in parting ways that may not be in an amicable way.
Why may such a scenario not be as good as it sounds? Let’s look at the top 2 reasons:
Your performance may take a hit!
Some of such nice bosses (not all) can continue to survive for decades. In fact, often you may feel, “He is so nice to me, it’s a boon. I can move up fast.” But the cumulative effect on your career can be drastically different. Sometimes, such managers are afraid that if they set high-performance targets and challenge the teams to meet and surpass them, their esteem will take a hit. As a result, they ease up on their expectations, even without realizing it. As expected, performances suffer in this manner.
In addition to the above, if your manager does not give you a real feedback, your career may be at risk. He may be afraid to ruffle feathers and this can ruin or slow down your performance progression.
Demotivation in the team
Such managers seldom stand for you when needed. Nice people tend to be too considerate and afraid to take a stand. The strong urge of being liked by all doesn’t allow them to forgo their credibility at any circumstance. This can be frustrating to team members, as the manager often is found to shy away from going to bat for their teams.
We can take Mark Zuckerberg’s case as a good example in this context. At one point in time, he realized that they have been a bit chaotic. If he wanted to continue as the creative and likable boss, then he needed to have a tough cop around to get the performance rolling. So, he then hired Sheryl Sandberg from Google, who brought back others into shape.
So, how do we mitigate the risks of having an excessively polite boss?
Two simple tips to help you manage without being labeled a mean person:
Plan your career progression on your own
Put down in writing what you are striving to attain in the organization, what are you working on and how will you be accountable for. Talk to your manager and get a written approval. For some, it may seem pushy, but it is a good initiative to make both parties feel that there can be no compromises when it comes to performance.
Investigate the root cause and take charge yourself
Having a boss who is overly sweet and at the same time does not stand up when needed is quite frustrating at times. However, you need to be empathetic and understand from where this behavior stems out.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1) Is it a cultural trait?
2) Do you find most of the functional heads having similar traits?
3) Do you find people in most teams quite relaxed when it comes to missing targets and deadlines?
Maybe he is just trying to adjust to the culture. Or he is trying to build credibility among similar people around by imitating them for his own survival. However, at the same time, you need to take charge of where you are heading towards. Do you want to become a part of the same herd? If not, then address the issue directly. Start by talking to your boss and make your expectations clear to him. Prove your mettle by performing better than the rest and give it a try. However, performing too well as compared to others may also result in professional jealousy from your peers. It’s important to build a positive equation with your peers to avoid this.
What did We Learn?
As compared to the discussion above, research shows that overly tough bosses create stress and add up to 46% of their employer’s health care costs. However, an extremely nice boss can be detrimental to the organization’s as well as the employee’s success. Hence, a boss must be kind without being weak, confident without being cocky and strong without being harsh.
In this era of adhocracy and collaborative environment, managers are often afraid of falling out of grace. They have a tendency to suffer what can be called a “nice-guy conflict.” The problem arises when the traits of being ‘kind and compassionate’ are subdued by the need of ‘niceness’ and the boss does not do what he is meant to do.
Remember what John Maxwell says, “A good leader is a person who takes a little more than his share of the blame and a little less than his share of the credit.”
I would always prefer to work for someone who is audacious enough to challenge the status quo and take the team along in the journey of learning and performance.